Libs Good Friday treachery

31 Mar 2018 Weekend Australian, Australia (General News) by David King Victorian Labor has accused the Coalition of using religious observance as a tactical con trick after two Liberal MPs who had been excused from voting on Good Friday for religious reasons unexpectedly returned to parliament and voted down the states controversial fire services bill. In a move described as treachery, betrayal and ball-tampering of the highest order, Liberal upper house MPs Bernie Finn and Craig Ondarchie accepted pairs on religious grounds and then returned moments before the vote and torpedoed the bill. They had accepted pairs with Labor ministers Jaala Pulford and Philip Dalidakis, who abstained and left the parliament to go on holiday. The Liberal were heckled as they returned to the Legislative Council yesterday morning, several hours after accepting the pair, and cast their votes to defeat the bill 19-18. Mr Ondarchie had earlier told parliament: This is the day that my Lord was crucified. I do not want to be here. Today I want to be right now with my church family. I want to take up your offer about accepting a pair. Mr Finn said: I want a pair because this, merely by being here, is making me feel ill. A pair is an arrangement in parliament where, if an MP is unable to attend a vote, an MP from the opposite side also withdraws to keep the numbers matched. Defending the decision to breach the agreement, opposition legal affairs spokesman John Pesutto said the Coalitions leadership group had taken the decision to bring the men back for the vote. We stand by that decision, and were very proud of that decision, he said. The public is not concerned with the internal pairing arrangements. The governments leader in the upper house, Gavin Jennings, Continued on Page 2 Continued from Page 1 said Labor had offered pairs after the Liberal MPs prayed to be with their families on Good Friday. And those people who prayed in front of us, who begged us to let them go, returned after wed given them a pair, at the 12th hour smugly returned to the parliament to betray parliamentary convention, Mr Jennings said. Labor MP Cesar Melhem said of the Liberals MPs: If they think they are good Christians, theres only one thing waiting for them, its hell. Crossbencher Fiona Patten, who voted in support of the bill, labelled it the dirtiest political trick I have ever seen in my 20 years around parliaments and balltampering of the highest order. State parliament sat on Good Friday for the first time, after the government revived the CFA reform bill this week. Debate in the upper house started on Thursday and went through the night. Rachel Carling-Jenkins, an Australian Conservatives MP who is thought to oppose the bill, was absent due to illness, and the government appeared to have the numbers to push the bill through. The Andrews Labor government wants to make the CFA volunteer-only, merging paid firefighters with the Metropolitan Fire Brigade to make a larger Fire Rescue Victoria. The opposition has opposed the bill, saying the government is doing the bidding of the United Firefighters Union. The pair for Mr Finn and Mr Ondarchie was offered at midnight and the two Liberals accepted, according to Labor upper house chief whip, Jaclyn Symes. Mr Pesutto said the government had sought to exploit Ms Carling-Jenkinss illness to push the vote through and had denied her a pair. She said very clearly and publicly that she was a no vote. Daniel Andrews tried to exploit her illness to pass this terrible legislation, he said. Ms Symes said Ms Carling-Jenkins had not made a request for a pair. Mr Finn issued a statement on Facebook, which he later deleted, saying: At 8am this morning, I received a call requesting my presence in the chamber for one vote. I drove into parliament, voted, then left. My objection to the sitting was not about me but rather the disrespect it showed Christians. He did not say if he had attended church.Licensed by Copyright Agency. You may only copy or communicate this work with a licence.